The Settlement of New Bremen

New Bremen Centennial Book - 1933
(By C. A. Schrage - Pgs. 7-11]

Problems of reconstruction as great then as those which followed the World War of recent memory were inherited by a tired world with the overthrow of Napoleon in 1814. A battleground for many years while the mighty Bonaparte fought and conquered, Europe did not escape the consequences of its frightful wars through the signing of the Treaties of Paris. It trembled in fear at the death throes of defeated governments. It suffered a painful travail at the birth of a new order. Its family quarrels led to revolutions which for a long time brought nothing but death, destruc­tion and despair.

Destined to become a central figure in the kaleidoscopic picture of dissent, Ger­many was little more than a loose federation of states at the start of the nineteenth century. Under the constitution given it by the Congress of Vienna (1814-1815) there was no German emperor, king, or powerful leader, not even a German flag to follow. Metternich's machinations had seen to that - he willed that Germany should be a dis­organized nation. But he reckoned without the Liberals, who were quick to enlist in the bitter battle for German unity, a battle that was to require many years in the winning.

During the period of reconstruction many of the Middle Class came to look with longing eyes to the New World. They visioned it as offering their only opportunity for a freedom untrammeled by Old World hates and fears.

And so it was that they emigrated to America, seeking to forget their sorrows in the struggle to achieve their goal under a strange but friendly flag.

The rush of emigration from Europe to America preceded by several years the adaptation of steamships for ocean travel. Sailing vessels, which required from four to six weeks, or sometimes as long as three months, to complete the westward crossing of the Atlantic, carried the emigrants who feared neither the perils of a hazardous sea voyage nor the terrors of the wilderness.

Along about 1830 there were eight ships sailing regularly between Bremen, Ger­many and America. Baltimore, Maryland was a favorite point of disembarkation. From the Chesapeake Bay, the trip inland took the German immigrants to Pittsburgh and then down the Ohio River to Cincinnati.

The founders of New Bremen, made up mostly of Bavarians and Hanovarians, fol­lowed this route. After forming a company of 33 members at Cincinnati, in 1832 they sent out two scouts, F. H. Schroeder and A. F. Windeler, to report on a suitable site. Some of the names appearing on the early agreements drawn up by members of the company are Christ Karman, B. Mesloh, F. Nieter, Philip Reis, F. Siemer, F. H. Schroeder.

Schroeder and Windeler covered the greater part of Ohio and even crossed into Indiana before they agreed upon the present site of New Bremen. Their selection was prompted by the fact that in addition to being in the fertile Black Swamp district, the site was on the great dividing ridge which separated the drainage of the lakes to the north and the rivers to the south.

Indian tribes regarded the territory with great favor but it was wrested from them little by little until the Treaty of Greenville, effected August 3, 1795 by General An­thony Wayne and William Henry Harrison with representatives of the Indians, opened it to the white settlers.

When Schroeder and Windeler came in 1832 they found the land partially cleared for an Indian camp, the traces of which still were plainly visible. Ten acres of land were purchased from the government at one dollar an acre. It was surveyed by R. Grant of Mercer County and divided into 102 lots, each 66 by 300 feet. One lot was reserved for each member of the company organized at Cincinnati. The remainder were offered for sale at $25.00 each. The plat was recorded officially June 11, 1833 at St. Marys as a part of Mercer County under the name of Bremen. A copy of this document follows (edited for easier reading):

The State of Ohio, Mercer County:

I, Robert Grant, surveyor, after examining the within plat of the town of Bremin, laid out on the southeast quarter of the southeast quarter of Section No. ten in Township No. seven, south of Range No. four east, and in the Piqua Land District in said county, and on the southwest quarter of said quarter section do find the same to be carefully executed with one hundred and two lots being laid East and West, the length given within, and North and South the width given, and one space of Public ground with a stone planted on the northeast corner of the same; also streets and alleys designated in said plat and also do believe the same to be sufficient plat for record. Given by me this 11th day of June A.D. 1833.

Robert Grant, Surveyor, Mercer Co., Ohio

State of Ohio, Mercer County:

Personally came before me one Henry M. Helm, a Justice of the Peace of St. Marys Township and County aforesaid, Frederic Henry Schroeder, Agent Bremin Co., and acknowledged the above Town Platt to have been done accord­ing to his order and wish. Given under my hand and seal this eleventh day of June in 1833.

Henry M. Helm, Justice of the Peace

Entered for record and recorded June 13, 1833 - Robert Bigger, Dept. Recorder

To further carry on their work, Schroeder and Windeler agreed that the former remain at the site of the new settlement while the latter undertook the return journey to Cincinnati alone. Windeler made his report to the company as soon as he reached Cincinnati. His description of the country in which the colony was to be established must have been well received as six families were influenced to accompany him to Bremen to become its first settlers. Among these were B. H. Mohrman and F. Dick­man.

The group required two weeks to cover the 120 miles from Cincinnati. Schroeder, meanwhile, had built a log hut measuring 12 by 14 feet. In it the six families lived together until each was able to have its own cabin. Other members of the company soon followed over the trail blazed by Windeler.

Then began the arduous task of hewing out a home in the wilderness. The early settlers had their flint muskets, their picks and shovels, and rude implements of agri­culture. But above all, they had a courage born of despair at conditions they left be­hind them, and a grim determination to give their very lives if necessary in the crea­tion of a new community offering to all who joined it equal opportunities forhappiness and contentment.

Instead of purchasing town lots, the early arrivals established themselves on farms bought from the government at $1.25 an acre. A little later the nucleus of a thriving settlement was formed when others built their cabins in Bremen.

The first public building erected was a log schoolhouse, which also served as a place of worship. Rev. Henze of Piqua was the first minister to conduct services. Rev. L. H. Meyer of Cincinnati, who joined the colony in 1835, became the first resident pastor. Following the death of Schroeder in the fall of that same year, Rev. Meyer also was named business agent forthe company.

At the end of the first year of its existence the settlement numbered some 35 fami­lies. Like those who preceded them, the new recruits came from Germany. Names such as Braun, Maurer and Paul attest to this. Chas. Boesel Sr., whose long and event­ful career as the real leader of the pioneers included service in high state positions, also arrived late in 1833. Mr. Boesel opened the first general store in New Bremen, was a leader in the development of the grain and pork-packing industry, and gave New Bremen its first bank. The bank, long known as Boesel's Bank, later was placed in charge of Mr. Boesel's son, Jacob Boesel. It was incorporated July 31, 1905 as The First National Bank, with Julius Boesel as president and Adolph Boesel, cashier. Another son of Mr. Boesel, Chas. Boesel Jr., opened The First City Bank in June 1898.

Others whose names have been retained for posterity in time-mellowed documents or business papers include Wm. Bruns, Fred Bakhaus Sr., Wm. Finke, Henry Finke, William Grothaus, Henry Gilberg, Henry Huenke Sr., Dr. Wm. A. Havemann, Michael Kuenzel, John A. Kuenzel, John C. Kuenzel, John Heinrich Kuenning, C. H. Kuenning, H. F. Kuenning, Christ Langhorst Sr., Victor Lanfersieck, Wm. Rabe, Fred Speckman Sr., Christian Schmidt, Henry F. Schulenberg, Christian Wiemeyer, Wm. Wiemeyer. There are many others, of course, but space does not permit a more complete list.

With the establishment of a government post office in 1835, the name of the settle­ment was changed from Bremen to New Bremen. Rev. Meyer, teacher, exhorter and business agent, was appointed the first postmaster by President Andrew Jackson.

Two years later on March 23, 1837, New Bremen was incorporated as a village under the provisions of a bill passed by the state legislature. Gerh. Klefoth, a school teacher, was the first mayor. Other officers elected with him were C. Boesel, recorder; G. M. Epperson, F. F. Boesche, F. Maurer, W. H. Long, councilmen. J. H. Knost was ap­pointed the first treasurer.

There was little opportunity for the settlers to eke out more than a livelihood until 1835 when a large group secured employment on the Wabash Canal. Up to that time labor was employed almost entirely in clearing the land at a wage averaging 35 cents a day. A grist mill, located north of the settlement and owned by H. H. Kuenning, vir­tually was the only established business.

The building of the Miami and Erie Canal, 1825-1845, brought on a real business boom, which caused many of the settlers to temporarily give up agricultural pursuits for work on the canal. Completion of the waterway connecting Lake Erie and the Ohio River also marked the beginning of business contacts that made the settlement a hust­ling hamlet of some 700 people. Large warehouses were constructed for storing grain, enabling New Bremen to become the principal market for farmers not only in its imme­diate territory but as far as 40 miles away.

In1849 the settlement was ravaged by cholera, more than two-fifths of the popula­tion succumbing to the disease. Those who survived carried on bravely and for the next ten years their record was one of continued progress.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, many of the young men of the community re­sponded to the call of President Lincoln for volunteers in the conflict to preserve the Union. When the war ended in 186, there again followed a period of natural, healthy advancement in industry and culture.

Along about 1852, a water mill was started at Lock Two, one mile north of New Bremen, by Bernard Koop. It became known as the Lock Two Mill and 18 years after its establishment was acquired by Fred Schaefer and Gustave Havemann. The next owner was John Garmhausen, who in turn disposed of it to his sons, Benjamin, Charles and Florenz Garmhausen. Destroyed by fire August 18, 1903, the mill was rebuilt in 1904 when a company was formed with more than 60 stockholders. First officers of the company were George Thiesing, president; Benj. Garmhausen, vice president; Chas. Garmhausen, secretary and treasurer; Henry Roettger and Frank Komminsk. The company now is known as The Lock Two Grain & Milling Company. Its officers are Herbert Garmhausen, president and Frank D. Kuenning, secretary.

In1868, a flouring mill was started under the name of Finke, Bakhaus & Kuenzels. It was carefully nurtured in its infancy and developed into a successful enterprise which, together with a well established woolen mill, is being operated today by The Kuenzel Mills Company.

Other pioneer millers were Gust Koop and Fred Vogelsang.

The year 1868 also witnessed the start of another business enterprise that has en­dured through the passing years. It was started by William Rabe, pioneer business man who prior to that time operated a flax mill. Mr. Rabe conducted the business in his name until 1901 when it was incorporated as The Rabe Manufacturing Company.

Pork packing, meanwhile, had become one of the town's leading industries. Farmers came from great distances to dispose of their hogs in New Bremen. During the peak years more than 10,000 hogs were slaughtered and shipped from New Bremen by canal boats. Development of the packing industry, which flourished until well after the Civil War, proved a boon to hotels and other business establishments which catered to farmers, boatmen and others drawn to New Bremen in this period.

Further impetus to industrial growth was given in 1871 through the building by the Lake Erie & Louisville Railroad (now the Nickle Plate) of a connecting branch from St. Marys through New Bremen to Minster. The railroad was given a right-of-­way through New Bremen and more than half of the cost of construction was met by New Bremen businessmen. Prior to that time there was only the old Dayton & Michi­gan (now the B. & 0.) railroad, which passed 10 miles east of New Bremen.

While officially named New Bremen, the settlement divided into two parts after the Miami and Erie canal was completed. The one part was called New Bremen and the other Ober Bremen. Christian Ellerman was mayor of Ober Bremen from 1851 to 1859. He was followed by F.H.L. Nieter, who served until 1876, when Ober Bremen was annexed by New Bremen.

The union of the two divisions brought on a movement for a centralized school building. This building, the Central School on South Franklin street, was completed in 1877 at a cost slightly less than $17,500.

In 1882, there was laid the groundwork for a business project of far-reaching con­sequence for in that year Louis Huenke began the sale of milk and butter. Two years later he opened a creamery - the first in northwestern Ohio. Adversity, it seemed, was his constant companion at the start, but his efforts resulted in the founding of The White Mountain Creamery Company in 1884. At the time of Mr. Huenke's retirement some years ago, the firm not only had a large creamery in New Bremen, but also was operating branch plants in a number of Ohio cities. Merged with the Beatrice Cream­ery Company in 1928, it is a recognized leader today in the dairying industry.

For the next few decades New Bremen moved along in the even tenure of its ways. Its inhabitants were happily employed and lived at peace with themselves and their neighbors. True, the Spanish-American War occurred in 1898-99, but it was of so short duration that it caused only a minor interruption in the daily lives of the people.

In April 1888, the New Bremen Natural Gas Company was formed with more than 100 stockholders. Officers of the company were Jacob Boesel, president; F. H. L. Nieter, vice president; Adolph Steinberg, secretary; and J. H. Boesche, treasurer. Gas was procured from a large well, known as the Arkenberg well, four miles north of New Bre­men. A public demonstration was staged the evening of Saturday, July 3, 1888, when the gas was lighted at the corner of Monroe and Herman streets. The ordinance authorizing a contract with the company for lighting "streets, squares and public places" was signed July 10th by Wm. Bruns, mayor and J. H. Grothaus, clerk. Two months later, on September 18th, the mains were completed and the gas was made available to home owners.

Another advancement recorded in the last decade of the nineteenth century was the organization of the New Bremen Telephone Company. Incorporators of the com­pany were Theodore Purpus, Jacob Fritz, A. C. Buss, Julius Boesel, and Edward Pur­pus. Construction of the communication lines was carried out at great cost, while the number of phone stations when the service was inaugurated is said to have been less than fifty. As the use of the telephone became more appreciated, the list of sub­scribers grew until the company thoroughly covered the territory. The company was controlled locally until May 1928, when it was purchased by Diversified Investments Corporation, Kansas City, Mo.

Extension of the Western Ohio Railway interurban tracks from St. Marys through New Bremen to Minster occurred in 1902, the first car over the new tracks arriving in New Bremen on April 21st. The interurban aided materially in the development of the community but eventually gave way to the automobile and late in 1931 the com­pany abandoned its entire system under permission of the Ohio Public Utilities Com­mission.

The year 1902 was featured by two elections on a proposal authorizing a munici­pal water plant and the purchase of the electric light plant operated by the New Bre­men Electric Light Company. At the first election, Monday, May 5, 1902, the two pro­posals were defeated. A second election held July 14, 1902 resulted in a victory for the proponents of both proposals. Contracts for building the municipal water plant on South Herman Street were let that same year. The contract for the buildings was awarded to The Rabe Manufacturing Company, New Bremen, while that for equipping the plant was given to T. C. Brooks & Co., Jackson, Michigan. The total cost was $27,000.

A little later, the purchase of the plant operated by the New Bremen Electric Light Company was consummated. After the change in ownership had been effected, the plant was continued for a few years in the old Power House, but later was moved to the South Herman Street location.

Late in 1902, The Arcade Department Store Company was formed through a mer­ger of four of New Bremen's oldest mercantile houses. Firms represented in the mer­ger were Speckman & Nieter, dry goods and groceries; Faehl & Nieter, furniture; Rabe's Cheap Store and Wiemeyer's Cash Clothing Store. The Speckman & Nieter Company dated back to 1852 when it was started by Fred Speckman Sr. and F. H. L. Nieter, Faehl & Nieter's Furniture Store was owned by August Faehl and Ferd Nieter, Rabe's Cheap Store by Theo. Rabe, and Wiemeyer's Clothing Store by Fred Wiemeyer. Present officers of The Arcade Department Store Company are A. H. Rabe, president and manager; George Thiesing Sr., vice president; Leo Huenke, secretary and Gustave Greiwe, treasurer.

One of the first acts of the early settlers was to band themselves together into companies of volunteer firemen. These served the community faithfully and well but despite their efforts several disastrous fires destroyed such buildings as the Rabe flax mill, the Heitkamp factory, and the St. Paul church. One of the biggest fires occurred March 18, 1892, when four buildings were destroyed at Lock Two. The buildings were the John Garmhausen store, the John Heinfeld residence, the J. B. Dickman shoe shop and the Christ Wissman saloon. Henry Hartwig, a fireman, was injured fatally by the explosion of a keg of powder stored in the Garmhausen building.

On September 12, 1913, the plant of the Klanke Furniture Company was completely razed by fire. This, perhaps, was the most destructive blaze as it threw some 70 men out of employment. Scarcely had the embers died, however, before plans for building another plant were under way. These were carried to completion in 1914 with the organization of The Auglaize Furniture Company.

As in the Civil War, the World War (1917-1918) saw many New Bremen youths in their country's service. More than 125 joined the different branches of the armed forces. Many of these returned when the war was ended by the armistice of November 11, 1918, but a few made the supreme sacrifice and today lie buried in France.

New Bremen also gave otherwise of its resources to winning the war. Each Liber­ty Loan issued found the community over-subscribing its quota.

In 1917 The Streine Tool & Manufacturing Company, manufacturers of sheet and plate working machinery, was organized to succeed The O. O. Poorman Company which came to New Bremen from Piqua in 1910. A. L. Herkenhoff was made president of the new company; F. H. Streine, vice president and general manager; and John Eiting, secretary and treasurer.

A bond election in 1926 made possible the motorization of the Fire Department. The department today still continues in charge of volunteer firemen who have trained themselves thoroughly in the operation of the equipment.

Voters of the New Bremen School District approved an $80,000 bond issue in 1928 for the erection of a new high school building. A site on South Walnut Street was pur­chased in the following year and the general building contract awarded to Opperman and Ruck, a New Knoxville firm. The building was completed late in 1929, occupied in January 1930, and formally dedicated February 7th with Dr. Edmund Soper, presi­dent of Ohio Wesleyan University, delivering the dedicatory address.

One of the most recent public improvements undertaken had to do with the munici­pal water plant on South Herman Street. Equipment for softening the water was in­stalled in the fall and winter of 1929 and placed into operation in January 1930.

Along with the rest of the country, New Bremen has felt the disastrous results of the depression which started with the stock market collapse in October 1929. Since then factories have been operating only part time or worse still, have been shut down completely and there has been a general stagnation of business that has spared no one from its ill effects. Some signs there are of a return to normal conditions but the recovery necessarily must be slow.

New Bremen is looking forward to the future bravely and hopefully. It knows that the country is founded upon sound principles and that these will triumph, no mat­ter how dark the clouds may be at times.

On July 1-4, 1933, New Bremen celebrated its 100th birthday and the book “New Bremen Centennial 1833-1933” was published. The following is page 54 from the book which lists the Village Officials at that time.

New Bremen Centnnial Officials